Trilogy 1944-1946

Born in Pennsylvania in 1886, H. D. attended Bryn Mawr College along with Marianne Moore, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she became friends with Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. She followed Pound to London and joined the vibrant circle of Modernist artists and writers that gathered there, quickly becoming one of the leaders of the Imagist movement.

H. D.'s early work is characterized by strong images and spare, economical language. However, her voice eventually outgrew those boundaries, as evidenced by the long lines and winding descriptions of her World War II epic, Trilogy. Written while she lived in London during World War II, Trilogy is considered one of the best examples of civilian war poetry, alongside T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets and Pound's Pisan Cantos. Comprised of three long poems that were published separately in small, limited editions, Trilogy was not collected into a single volume until 1973.

Each section is marked by a date that sets the poem within a historical chronology, as well as a vision that helps lift it out of the present. The first, and most anthologized, section, "The Walls Do Not Fall," was written in the midst of the "fifty thousand incidents" of the London blitz. The poem connects H. D.'s war-torn London alongside her memories of the Egyptian city of Karnak, tying to reconcile the ancient history with the history being lived through, connecting the broken, but still-standing walls, both ancient and present. She insists on hope, as she says, "we have no map; / possibly we will reach haven, / heaven."

The middle section, "Tribute to the Angles," captures new life pushing through the smashed bricks of the broken city, analogous to the simultaneous process humanity must undergo after the devastation of war. The final section, "The Flowering of the Rod," continues this regeneration and resurrection and begins with the epigraph "…pause to give / thanks that we rise again from death to live."